1 November 2008

Letter 4.9

Why the country calls itself Sri Lanka, I don't know. The Sinhalese alphabet has separate letters for an 'S' sound and as aspirated 'S' (also for B and aspirated B, P and PH, etc.), as do many Asian (Sanskrit based) languages. An aspirated 'S' is often transliterated as 'SH' (though the H is softer than in, say, 'should' -- it is really a puff of air rather than a hard sound). Those who changed the English name from Ceylon to correspond more closely with the name the Sinhalese have always used for the country chose to transliterate it as Sri, but a case could be made for Srhi and, in other instances, is often used.

Climbed Ella Rock. 6 hour round trip. Good view. Bad day. Rain. Lightning crashing below, clouds doing weird dances as they hit the hot air of the plains just east of the Rock. Could see my cottage, a small dot identifiable by its location beside the pine forest. The climb wasn't hard, just long, up the backside (to go up the frontside -- viewed from the cottage -- one would have to be a skilled mountaineer, as it's partly very steep and partly precipitous.)

Getting ready for the rains. We've had a taste of it, but the monsoon sets in for real mid-October. Store of firewood in. Managed to obtain a sheet of corrugated plastic and now have a skylight, so I can batten darn when necessary and still have plenty of light. When it rains hard the pond turns muddy, so there is now a piece of bamboo across the roof to catch rain-water (the green bamboo hereabouts is quite large, 10-12 inches in circumference, and can grow 30 feet or more, though I need only 15 feet) and also a 55 gallon drum set up beside the porch to catch it in (lined with plastic to keep it clear).

Inside: A wooden table and straight-back chair. An armchair called, I'm told, a G.O.H. chair since it is the model used in the Grand Oriental Hotel. A sort of swing designed by myself -- a length of cloth, poles at top and bottom, and four ropes to support each end of each pole -- the most comfortable chair of all, and it rolls up and can be put in a corner when not in use. Some bamboo shelves I've built. And a bed of grass and pine needles. Nice smelling. I add fresh needles every week or so, and it gradually gets higher, but a long way from being too high.

A clover that grows wild everywhere here is not only edible but quite tastey lemony and sweet. A low-growing leafy plant called gotukole in Sinhalese (it was common in Thailand also, where it's called baaybabaw, but I don't know the English) -- makes a good tea as well as a salad ingredient. The daily salad I make of these, plus tomatos and onions, is not only delicious but healthy.

I'm also working on The Track of Truth -- not on the translations so much as the notes, which will be at least double the size of the verses. They will consist of relevant extracts from related texts, my own commentary, and extracts from relevant contemporary writers. As not all this material is at hand, I must make many detours, working around what I cannot work through, and shall later have to do much backtracking, at a considerable loss of time, and perhaps some loss of accuracy. Frustrating; though the method, it seems, of every madness.

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